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Zhaoyun Chen, Yuwu Jiang, Jia Wang, and Wenping Gong


Satellite images show that the Pearl River plume is entrained into the upwelling front in the northeastern South China Sea. To understand the processes and extend to other coastal zones, an idealized numerical model is used to investigate the upwelling dynamics in response to the arrival of the river plume. Upon forcing by an upwelling-favorable wind, the model reproduces the upwelling frontal jet with a stratified water column, which takes the river plume far away from the mouth of the estuary. The river plume introduces additional upwelling and downwelling at its inshore and offshore sides (defined as plume-related secondary upwelling circulation), respectively. For the initially unstratified water column, the plume-related secondary upwelling circulation is stronger and extends to deeper water than for the stratified condition. The surface boundary layer thins and the offshore current intensifies in the river plume. The variations in wind-driven current over the deep-water shelf in different stratified conditions are modulated by the vertical profiles of the eddy viscosity, which are shown by a one-dimensional numerical model. Offshore transport is reinforced when the head of the river plume arrives. Thereafter, it is changed by the cross-shore baroclinic geostrophic component of velocity, due to alongshore density variation by the river plume. The horizontal gradient of stress on the two sides of the river plume is responsible for the plume-related secondary upwelling circulation owing to different stress decay scales inside and outside the river plume.

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